Friday, August 7, 2009

Support Group

This past Tuesday I found myself at a support group for women who have lost babies. Unbelievably, it was my first. It took me one whole moody, self-destructive year to get myself there, but I did it. Better late than never.

I drive to the hospital where the group meets, about 20 minutes from my house. I have to abandon my family and neighbors who were beginning to gather on the street for National Night Out. We missed it last year also as the event came just a month after we lost Lyle and we were still not in the mood for festivities. I arrive at the hospital and I am feeling strong and good. I park and enter the building. I have to ask the kind woman at the front desk who spoke with what sounded like an Eastern European accent where the support group for women who have lost babies is meeting. I felt my voice tremor. My strength was slipping. I walk down the hall in the direction I was given and am surprised that I end up in the maternity ward. How can that be possible. I turn left where as pregnant women about to give birth and their families and friends would be turning right through some swinging doors. My back is to them. I continue.

I enter the room. My friend and facilitator is already there as is one young woman with dark long hair. We say our hellos. The younger woman is talking to Joann, the facilitator, about checking account balances and bills. Another couple arrives, and another woman, then another. There are six of us there with one remaining boyfriend still to come. We begin. Joann has us go around to introduce ourselves since I am new. The young woman with the long dark hair lost her son at 23 weeks. The couple lost their son at full term. A young African American woman lost hers at 11 weeks. And a young Hmong woman lost her daughter at 27 weeks and 4 days. Then me. I get out that my name is Marian and I lost a baby (I couldn't say "my son." Not yet) at 20 weeks and I started crying. I apologized saying that this was my first group. The dark haired girl quickly brought me a box of kleenex. I was understood. I was listened to. I felt the empathy and the sympathy palpably in that room.

I talked about no knowing how to forgive the midwife for not telling me to go in, about not being able to forgive myself for not going in. I listened to stories of boyfriends and husbands telling the women to just get over it already. To stories of trying to get pregnant again and not being successful as of yet. To inconsiderate co-workers, family members and friends. I talked about Deborah calling me to listen to the story of losing Lyle, only to then say, "well the reason I'm calling is to see when you are coming back." Another woman and I talked about how we celebrated out son's birthdays. They had a party. We ate cupcakes, gave Lyle a Hip Hip Hoooray, planted a shrub and made a scrapbook. I was told to not beat myself up, but that this is a struggle for all of them. I learned that all these women were recommended to take 6 weeks off. I only took 2. Did someone tell me to take 6 weeks off and I didn't follow their direction because it was such a busy time at the Improve Group and I just thought they couldn't do without me for that long? Did anyone at work insist that I take 6 weeks? I am sure that one is a no. But what I do know is that going back to work after only 2 weeks was the next step to my undoing at work.

After listening to these women's stories of loss and grief, I felt lighter and more secure with how I am feeling. I am thankful that Robert has never and would never think to tell me to "just get over it." Afterward, I spent several minutes talking with the woman who came with her husband. They had lost their baby at full term because there was a knot in the umbilical cord. They said they are still trying to have a baby even though they are 40. Then encouraged me to keep trying. She said her mother was 44 or something when she had her. We'll see. I told her that I am tired of trying. That after 4 years of trying, not trying is like taking a burden off my shoulders.

Robert and I are going to an informational meeting for Hennepin County foster parenting. I am excited by that. A step in the right direction. Or at least a different direction.

I will go back to the group in two weeks. I am so glad I went.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

50 things I love

Sunday, July 19th, 2009

A terrible day. I have disappointed someone and myself by making a huge work mistake. Big enough to cost. There will be consequences, and I face the music tomorrow. If there is one thing that brings me down that dark oozing hole of depression, it's disappointing someone. My friend Margaret, who is also having her share of bad days, recommended that I make a list of everything that I love. I will amend that somewhat with the words of my friend Janet who has also seen her share of devastation: everything I am thankful for. So here it goes:

1. My daughter Iris
2. My husband Robert
3. My mother Doris
4. My father George
5. My cat Peanut
6. My cat Juniper
7. My lovely house
8. My deck
9. Our property on the river
10. The food we eat
11. The clothes I wear
12. My sister Claire and her family
13. Our neighbor kids that are entertaining Iris right now
14. Our new bed
15. Going back to school to study something I feel to be incredibly worthwhile, positive and meaningful.
16. The plants in my garden
17. Isabelle
18. Mariam
19. Tina
20. Jolana
21. Krista
22. Jennifer
23. Ben
24. Gretchen
25. Bob and Mary
26. A working dishwasher
25. A working washing machine and dryer
26. That this (work) phase of my life is nearly over
27. My daughter Iris
28. My daughter Iris
29. My daughter Iris
30. My husband Robert
31. Margaret
32. Janet
33. The positive learning experiences I have had
34. My son Lyle
35. My son Lyle
36. My daughter Iris
37. My daughter Iris
38. My relative physical health
39. The peaceful and wonderful breaks I experience between depressive episodes
40. Music
41. The New Yorker
42. Good books to read
43. Cuties
44. Knowing how to cook good food for me and my family
45. My Grandfather's corner china cabinet
46. The dining room table and chairs we bought with our wedding money
47. The memories of Pork Chop and Teddy
48. The park across the street
49. Peace, when there is some
50. The love I feel from my family and friends

Friday, July 10, 2009

Next steps

Thank you Mary for your comment and story! I am so sorry for your loss. It is just another reminder that there are so many women out there with these stories. I know that several books have been published bursting at the seams with stories like ours, and yet there are always more women whose stories need to be heard. Stories that may change medical, physiological and support protocols.

This is the next step: to do all we can to prevent this from happening all too often, and to help friends, family, work place, and community support women when it does happen. As I may have said, I am currently going back to school to study acupuncture and oriental medicine. Hopefully on this path I will be able to do my part on both of these agendas. I am also beginning to correspond with someone here in Minneapolis about creating some protocols at the work place on how to support co-workers, colleagues and employees in the case of baby loss. We'll see where it goes but I am driven and hopeful.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

The few months after

7/7/09 We got through the day, Lyle's birth and death day. I have a headache today from some emotional purging, and am quite numb and disinterested in what is going on around me, but otherwise alright.

Thank you to everyone to has send thoughts, feelings and encouragement! This is my first blog and it is heartening to see people reading it.

I wanted to post something I wrote to be a part of my friend Jeanne Bain's radio show on baby loss. She had just happened to have this show planned at the end of August last summer. So I wrote the piece below and read it for air time. It is very raw and in places, repetitious. I want to post this because this is how grief went for me, those initial days, weeks and months.

End of June 2008

It has been three weeks since I delivered my son too early. The grief is still very raw. Not as raw as the first two weeks when the devastation would rack my body with sobs in the middle of the night or whenever it chose. But still raw. I can feel my body and mind attempt to move forward and it disconcertedly feels like forgetting. The urge to bring myself back to the night of the delivery just to see if it can still make me cry is very strong. I feel numb. Nothing is important; nothing exciting. I don’t look forward to anything, in fact dread getting together with friends, or dropping by the co-op, or going to work. Work seems banal. So meaningless. After going through something like this nothing seems as significant.

I find that the only thing that I am doing with any amount of enthusiasm is researching Traditional Chinese Medicine’s (TCM) diagnosis of kidney deficiency, as well as TCM in general. My acupuncturist has given me a six month road to recovery. I will strive to nourish my body and prepare it in turn to nurture life. That feels good. It feels right. The only thing that feels right, with the exception of the base existence of my family. I am so thankful for my husband and daughter. I feel as though I am unable to be the mother Iris wants and needs me to be, but she herself and my relationship to her is right. Likewise, I am short and irritable with Robert. But he is right as is my relationship to him. He is grieving too. As is Iris. He starts projects. Some of them absurd. He tries to construct an artistic or mechanical theory in his mind and then manifest it physically. Sometimes it works to great success, like the sand paintings he did with Iris, other times it fails, like his dabbling in juggling or harmonography.

As I try to accept the events of three weeks ago some ideas give me peace. At my most esoteric, I imagine a place where all souls congregate. One is asked to volunteer for a very short life for a woman who thinks she is ready but in reality her body is not. Lyle volunteers for this life. He is an old soul. He is loved and perhaps sticks around a little longer because of it. He likes it when the cat lays on his mother’s belly and he can hear and feel the vibration and comfort of the cat’s purring and weight. He likes the voices of the woman and man and child that constantly surround him. But it doesn’t feel right and he gets antsy; restless.
Of course the other theory is that if I had gone into the midwives at the first sign of bleeding and had they seen that perhaps my cervix was dilated, I may have had a cerclage. Had I had a cerclage on Wednesday and then gone into labor on Saturday as it happened, maybe they could have controlled the contractions with medications and I would have been hospitalized for several weeks as we all waited anxiously for the baby to develop to a point where he would have had a fraction of a chance to survive outside the womb.

But that didn’t happen because they did not call me in. I will never know if my cervix was dilated on Wednesday, Thursday or Friday. I called them each day. Each day they told me I need not come in. My anger can rage up if I think of this. But then I remember the words of my acupuncturist telling me I got pregnant too soon, and I realize that if this is true, the midwives could have done very little. Then I go back to my esoteric idea of Lyle volunteering for this job knowing he would not live very long.

Week 1 - (What follows is my attempt to record where my head, thoughts and mental state were at. All that surfaced during that time were words, single words, and thoughts behind those words.)


Utter devastation. Wake me up in the middle of the night wracking my body with sobs. I can’t believe it happened. Oh my God. Oh my god. It really happened. Oh God. That was me. That was my baby. Oh my God. I killed my baby. Oh God I am so sorry. I am so sorry. I love you. I am so sorry. I failed. My body rejected you. I killed you. How can I go on. Oh shit. Holy Shit. This happened. That was me. That was my baby. Any time of day that gives me five minutes of unoccupied time. I killed my baby. My baby is dead. It’s my fault. I can’t go on. Let me sleep.


Mom and Dad in my house. Cooking me dinner. Letting me sleep. Watching me cry. Pouring me drinks. Doing my laundry. Crying with me. Their grandchild. Letting me talk. Letting me remember. Holding me. Rubbing my shoulders. They are sad. I love them.

Robert back to work. Listening to me cry. Holding me in the middle of the night. Crying. Our son died. Never sitting still. Trying to work. Crying. Trembling. It’s not your fault. I’m not angry at you. It’s not your fault. They told us not to come in. I don’t blame you. I love you. You didn’t kill him. I love you. Come here.
Iris making her sad face. A tear drop on her cheek made with her thumb and forefinger. Then pulls the corners of her mouth down with the same fingers. She is sad. Everything is boring. Why did the baby die? I never thought that baby would die. I am sorry. I don’t like to see you and Daddy sad. It makes me sad.


Friends who know. Who have felt it. Who understand. Friends who don’t know but love. Give support. More love and support than I ever would have thought I needed. Cards and flowers light up the room with love. Friends who don’t know what to say. Perhaps fear. Friends who call and provide conversations, thoughts, strength that lead to memories that make me smile. Distract me. I can laugh. I can smile as tears come. Just to check in. Each day is different.


So vivid. So raw. So recent. I still feel it. Feel him in my arms. Feel him inside me. Engorged breasts. Milk for whom? I have no body. Blood. Pain. Exhaustion.

Memories 8/19

I have learned how greatly memories affect the grieving process and one’s emotional state in general. The first week after we lost Lyle, that night figured so prominently in all its devastation and agony, rendering me to bits and pieces as I walked from couch to kitchen to couch. I would close my eyes and I would be back in the tent, or the emergency room, or in the car on the way to the emergency room, or on the walk from the tent to the car, or in the delivery room, or waking up in the delivery room not realizing at first where I was and why I was there.

There were distractions, however, that first week which hauled me out of the despair. Telephone calls with friends. Two friends that had also lost sons too early. With friends that gave me support, kindness and love. My parents came to be with us. My Dad made lovely food and we had drinks and laughed and conversed. These events, these memories tried their best to push the memories of losing Lyle away from the forefront of my mind and surprisingly, they succeeded to a point. I was able to smile and laugh and accept love and sympathy, advice on how to go on (just go on). Able to listen to other women’s stories. Learn from them. With these memories, I was able to sleep through the night without waking up and sobbing.

I want Lyle here with us. That thought came three days after we lost him. I need him to be here. After I delivered him and we held him in his towel and watched him die, I had no concept of what to do with him. I had never thought of what I would do. No being a religious person, a ceremony was not attractive. Nor was bringing his body home with us in a box. I sent him to the Mayo Clinic for tests. The nurses and OB said I had time to decide. I didn’t think I would. Then three days later, I needed him with us. The next two days were dedicated to calling Lake City, finding out where Lyle was and what I needed to do to get him cremated and sent back to us. I spoke to at least three funeral homes, all quoting me different prices for the cremation of Lyle and delivery, the highest quote being over three hundred dollars. I finally managed to have a kind man pick him up at the Lake City Medical Center and have him cremated in Lake City. This service was free. Nor did he charge me for delivery. “We won’t charge you for that,” he said. These phone calls also provided me with a life line during that first week. I was accomplishing something that I felt to be very important. I had to tell the story over and over to each person on the other end of the telephone. Everyone was so kind and understanding when I had to stop talking and take a deep breath to keep my voice steady.

My daughter was glad to have Lyle in the house. He will always be a part of our family. “Ly-all,” she says and makes a teardrop out of her thumb and pointer finger and places it on her cheek, then turns down the corners of her mouth with her other thumb and pointer. “I never thought that baby would die,” “I never even got to see him,” she would say. We explain to her that Lyle was born too early and wasn’t able to survive. That I will try to have another baby, but that if I can’t we will adopt. “You will be an older sister one day, one way or another.” She likes that idea. She tells her friends.

But memories are not helping me anymore. I have a month and a half now between Lyle’s death and today. Many new memories to think of. Going to Mexico was so peaceful. Our whole family went to Mexico about 5 weeks after we lost Lyle. For a week after arrangements were made for the travel, I felt nothing. Two days before we left I started getting a little excited and it felt good to look forward to something. The five days were relaxing and beautiful. Iris played in the sea and swam like a fish. We laughed and ate good food, saw Mayan ruins and macaws and iguanas. Then we came home. A few days later numbness set in once again.

The Monday drive into work is hard. I think, “Why am I doing this?” Work doesn’t seem meaningful. Nothing seems meaningful. I fight the urge to quit. Once I am at my desk it is better. I can work and I can actually like what I am doing. But the next morning I dread the trip in.

Women have come out of the woodwork to tell me their stories of loss. So many women. So much grieving and surviving. They are an inspiration.

Research. Traditional Chinese Medicine. Acupuncture. Kidney deficiency. Have only scratched the surface. So much to learn.

My body. First week: cramping, exhaustion, pain, blood. Breasts engorged. Headaches. Hemorrhoids. Pain. Milk spraying out of my breasts. No baby. Sage and comfrey compresses. Peppermint candy. Cabbage leaves. Please make it stop. Exhaustion. Must sleep.


If I was one hundred percent honest with myself I would freely say my belief is as strong for God as it is that I have a right arm. God is the sky. God is the air I breathe. God surrounds me. That is not to say that God is nature (although I believe that too); the symbolism is that I feel God so wholly, so completely inside, yet nothing is as big as God and the sky comes the closest. If I were honest, I would say that I talk to God nearly daily at small intervals here and there. This is not the first time I have felt a strength that could not have come from myself in a time of trauma or devastation. But this is the worst. Some days (in retrospect, perhaps the last several) I have not sought solace in God. Sometimes, if I were honest, I would say that I sometimes forget. Maybe I will try that tonight.


I want with all my heart and soul for Lyle to appear to me in dream or wake to tell me he forgives me. Please forgive me. Please forgive me. I am so sorry. Let me know you are alright, that you are not angry with me for failing to carry you. Please let me know you are at peace. Some of course would say that the person I need forgiveness from is myself. I forgive you. I forgive you. I forgive you. Maybe if I say it enough times I will believe it. I failed him. It isn’t fair. I need to forgive myself. When does that happen?


Who am I? Where will this take me? A journey is beginning. Evolution. I need to be open to the signs that will take me…somewhere. Every day I drive to my office, I feel empty and numb at best, filled with despair and sadness at worst. What else do I want to be doing? Until I have an answer for that, I will remain at my job and resist the urge to quit.

Monday, July 6, 2009

One year ago

It is July 6th, 2009. One year since we lost our baby, Lyle George. A few days ago I bought a flowering shrub and planted it in our yard in his honor and memory. I was warned to have something planned for this day, otherwise the vicious memory of the entire ordeal a year ago would come down upon us like a ton of flaming bricks. So I bought a blank scrap book last week and tonight Robert, Iris and I filled it with the items given to us from the hospital in Lake City where Lyle was born, the cards received from friends and family, faxes sent by the crematorium, and letters we each wrote to Lyle today. It was good to get that done for it is something I have been thinking about for months and months. We were all very sad remembering him and that horrific night.

Earlier in the evening good friends came over and we split up our weekly CSA garden delights, drank beers and planned a long weekend in a cabin for late August. All great things. Our lives are very blessed with kindness and love. All the more reason to not understand why Lyle's life had to be taken so he couldn't be a part of it.

So many things jab me with their fierce and pointed flashes of pain: our failed attempts at pregnancy after Lyle; the bad advise of my midwives when it all started to come down; the boxes of baby clothes taking up space in our basement that I can't seem to part with; memories of that night and the brutal months that followed. It makes me so angry and frustrated that memories of grieving, not just the event that caused the grieving, make me grieve. How can that be? How can I let that be? How will it stop, this grieving, if grieving begets grieving?

But we do move on. This year has been the longest perhaps of my life with its multi-phases of grief, the struggle to maintain stability and sanity, the shift in priorities and ambitions. A year has gone by and I feel like a splintered version of myself, but a splinter that has now grown new shoots that are rather twisty and unsure, yet have some amount of knowledge that the sun is up and that the sun provides nourishment.

Robert expressed his sadness tonight, saying he thought today would be hard, but that it was much harder than he had anticipated. I don't think we knew how to support each other-each lost in our own memories of that night and our loss. I have to remember sometimes that this did not just happen to me, that he hurts too.

We miss and love you Lyle. Son, brother, Grandson, nephew. Be at peace.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Baby Lyle

The first wave of my hand recovery took three months. Three months of seeing an occupational therapist twice a week, changing of dressings, ultrasounds, and trying to get my pinkie and ring finger to straighten out while avoiding ripping the newly mended tendons. I was careful and perhaps too careful for today those fingers still do not straighten. I try to think back and assure myself that I tried and worked those fingers as hard as I could, but I always seem to come back and think that I could have done more and then today I would have a normal hand.

I would love to write more about the hand and will undoubtedly write more eventually, but am feeling the need to move on to other significant events.

The hand accident was in October of 2007. I went to see an acupuncturist in February 2008 to see if acupuncture could help facilitate the nerve regeneration in my fingers. After a couple of sessions I dropped into our conversation that I was also trying to get pregnant. He took my pulse and looked at my tongue and diagnosed me with kidney Qi deficiency. He prescribed a bunch of herbs for me to brew and ingest and said I should not try to get pregnant for three months. I choked. I was now 39 and felt the time was now. But I drank the bitter brew those herbs produced and continued to get acupuncture once a week for a few weeks. Then about a months after my first acupuncture visit, we went in for another bout of insemination.

A few hours after the insemination, I went in for my acupuncture appointment. He took my pulse and said, "I think you are pregnant already." Well, we'll see. But yes, indeed he was correct! I was pregnant! Joy of all joys. It worked! I was wary for the first three months, and sick as a dog. Also exhausted because I found myself with insomnia.

It is Wednesday, July 2nd, 2008. I am newly entered into my 18th week of pregnancy and I spot blood. I call my midwife line. I am part of a midwife network, thereby not knowing each time I call which of the seven or eight Midwife/Nurse Practitioners I will have the opportunity to talk with. I first speak to a nurse. “I am 18 weeks pregnant and I just spotted!” I know this can mean any number of harmless things, and try not to get worked up. She says she will leave a message with the midwife and he or she will call me back. “OK,” I say. Some time later the nurse calls me back. She asks me what color the blood is. I say pinkish. She assures me that it is most likely nothing to worry about, we hang up and I go about my day. Each time I go to the bathroom, I see a touch of red on the toilet paper after I wipe. On Thursday I am still spotting. I call the clinic again and again they ask me what color it is and then reassure me that I do not have to rush in and that it is probably nothing. I do have a pollop on my cervix which they suspect is the reason for the spotting. I check websites, chat lines and blogs on which I find many women sharing that they are spotting and scared and many other women assuring them that that had happened to them as well and it came to nothing. I relax a little. This afternoon we load up the car to go camping in Lake City on Lake Pepin with some of Robert’s relatives. I feel comfortable going.

Friday, I had as good a night sleep as I ever have camping: little sleep lots of meditation listening to the wind in the trees, the insects and other outdoorsy phenomena we do not experience in the city. Friday I am still spotting. Is it more than before? I can’t tell anymore. It is July 4th. I go down to the beach at the camp site and swim. We eat over the fire and enjoy the company and vistas. In the evening Robert and I take our daughter and her cousin to see the fireworks in town. I am feeling pretty good. While sitting in our camping chairs watching the exploding lights ahead I feel some watery discharge come out of me. I try to remain calm and don’t tell Robert. I try to ignore it. We head back to the campsite after the fireworks and use the modern facilities one last time before heading to our camp site. As I am urinating, I feel large clumps pass out of me and hear as they hit the water below like lumps of mud. All I can think is oh my god oh my god. I walk back to the campsite my head exploding with fear and panic. I call the midwife line again and finally talk to the actual midwife. He listens to what I has happened with the watery discharge and the passing clumps. He asks me if I feel any pain. I say no, no pain. He asks me if I can feel the baby moving. Oh yes, I say, it’s moving a lot. He tells me it doesn’t sound like I am miscarrying and that I don’t have to go in to the ER. I tell him that I have an ultrasound scheduled for Monday, he says, “Oh, well you’ll be fine until then, we’ll just wait and check you out at that time.” I hang up reassured. That night trying to get to sleep I have some discomfort. Feels like the baby is pressing on me. I get up to pee and the discomfort seems to stop and I am able to sleep.

Saturday I try to stay on pelvic rest, which basically was explained to me as no heavy lifting or running. So I walk slowly and stay mostly at the camp site. I go down the beach and sit in the shade trying to calm my worries and pretend I don’t feel that same pressing feeling periodically. We go for an evening boat ride that night with the girls. Uncle Pete brought is fishing boat on the trip and we glide through the calm beautiful waters of Lake Pepin and watch the sun go down. Iris falls asleep in my arms.

We prepare for bed. I retire early listening to Robert by the fire with everyone else. I lay on our blow up mattress and try to sleep but the pressing sensations come back. I rub my belly trying to calm the baby and myself. I try to go to the bathroom as last night that seems to help. I return and the discomfort continues. Discomfort slowly turns to pain. So slowly in fact that it barely registers. After a couple of hours I start to cry. This can’t be happening, I think. This happened to Tracy and this just doesn’t happen to two people in the same circle of friends. This can’t be happening. This goes around and around in my head as I silently sob begging the pain to stop. Finally, I have to admit to the world that this is happening and I get out of the tent and call Robert over. I start crying harder and can’t make the phone call. He calls and they tell him to get me to an emergency room. I pull on clothes and we walk the long path to the parking lot and the car. The pain seems to even get worse as I walk. When I sit in the car seat, I feel that things are right, it feels like I have a rock lodged in my vagina. I am terrified. Robert keeps telling me that we don’t know anything yet and it could be nothing, but he is scared too.

Lake City has a hospital. Robert drops me off at the Emergency Room entrance and goes to park the car. I run inside and immediately start sobbing to the first person I see that I am pregnant and something is wrong. They put me in a room. I am the only one in the emergency room it seems. The nurses (nursing assistants?) look about 18 year old. A family practitioner finally comes in. I tell him what is going on. Spotting and now pain. He asks me if I can still feel the baby moving, I say I don’t know because now all I feel is pain. He immediately does an ultra sound. We see the baby on the screen and he is moving all over the place. That reassures the doctor which reassures me. I get up the go the bathroom. Robert says I look better already. We are hopeful. I return and the doctor wants to do a pelvic examination. I put my feet in the stirrups, he inserts the speculum and says, I see the pollop and it is quite large. He then declares that I am 4 centimeters dilated.

Everything seems to move very fast then. He calls a colleague at the Mayo Clinic who advises that I should be airlifted to Mayo for an emergency cerclage. I have heard of that and I am ready for anything that will save my baby. I feel relief. Robert kisses me good bye says he will get our stuff all packed up and he will meet me in Rochester. The doctor elevates my feet to relieve the pressure on mycervix. This is very uncomfortable and the contractions (as I now understand them to be) seem to be getting worse. A few minutes go by as the get the helicopter ready to whisk me away. I am in the room with the two nubile nursing assistants. Suddenly after one contraction passes and a jet of water shoots out of my vagina and appear to hit the wall. Water seems to flood the room. One girl runs from the room, the other tells me my water broke. I am confused and frantic. What does this mean? The doctor come back in and says, “I am sorry, there is nothing we can do now. You are going to have this baby.”

I wail. I wail like I have never wailed. The despair rises out of me so powerfully that it is beyond containing. I am alone and I am wailing. Swearing, Cursing. Screaming. Disbelieving. Robert is getting our stuff together. I was supposed to be going to Rochester to make all this right. How could this be happening? Oh my god oh my god. No please.

The wailing starts to decrease and numbness and shock descend. I call Robert. He doesn’t answer. I leave him a message that my water broke and there is nothing they can do and to come back as fast as he can. My whole body is shaking uncontrollably. I can barely talk. They ask me if I want to deliver my baby here in Lake City, or if I want to go back to the cities to deliver. What a choice. I opt to stay where I am. They wheel me down to another part of the hospital. I can barely make out what is around me. I am losing my baby and there is nothing anyone can do.

They wheel me to a small room and call a gynecologist to oversee the delivery. I am no longer feeling any contractions but am caught in this purgatory of despair thinking irrationally that maybe it really will be ok, while simultaneously knowing that it is hopeless and my baby will die. The gynecologist and Robert arrive. Robert is pale, stunned and saddened into an uncharacteristic silence. My own tears haven't stopped. The gynecologist and the nurses are very sweet to us and try to make me as comfortable as possible, but we have to progress to the next step and deliver the baby.

The gynecologist puts her hands in my vagina and painfully stretches the opening for the baby to come out with the least amount of damage and bruising. I am no longer contracting and am exhausted. She tells me to push and I can barely muster the strength. But I do. My legs are shaking uncontrollably so that Robert and the nurses have to put their hands on my thighs and knees to stop the trembling. I push and feel something flush out of me. My son was born. He is alive. They put his long skinny body in a blanket and put him on my chest. All I can do is sob and say over and over that I am sorry and that I love him. Robert is there with me crying. The baby's mouth opens and shuts. Eyes are closed, skin is membranous. He has all his beautiful fingers and toes. I see his tongue in his mouth. He is calm compared to the fast movements I was feeling earlier on the night. I can't comprehend what I am doing. I have an urge to put his head in my mouth. An attempt to put him back inside me? His limbs twitch occasionally. I can't tell you when he dies. Robert holds him while they try to get the placenta out of me. Robert says he went cold while he held him. I have to take a line of small white pills to stimulate contractions. I don't want to feel any more pain so they give me morphine. The placenta comes out and they declare that it looks normal. Then then take blood. Or does this happen the next morning? Lots of blood. I am sure some is to see if I am on drugs, and others are to check me for other problems that may have caused this to happen. They ask us what we want to do with him and do we want pictures. This floors and confuses me. These are decisions for which I have no reference or experience. I can't answer. They say I don't need to decide now. They will keep him then send him to Mayo for further tests. I say OK, relieved to not have to make any decisions.

Robert leaves to be with Iris and pack up the camp site. I fall into a stupor and drug induced sleep. When I awake I have a moment where I hope it was just a dream but then start shaking, panicking and sobbing as the reality penetrates. Robert and Iris arrive at the hospital. Iris is pale and stunned. She gives me a big hug and says, "I am sorry Mommy. I never wanted the baby to die." We slowly check out of the hospital. We are at the desk and they ask me to complete some paperwork. I realize that I am filling in information for the baby's birth and death certificate. The forms ask for a name. A name. I look at Robert and we agree on Lyle George. Lyle is the last boy name we had agreed on, and George is my father's name. Lyle George Eichinger. I write in the name. It becomes all the more real and concrete and hits me with force.

The drive back to town is surreal. My belly is still bloated yet I know there is not baby inside it. I am sore and exhausted. I weep. Robert is silent as is Iris. We arrive home and I slide into sleep.

I wanted to tell this story today because tomorrow, July 6th, is the anniversary of Lyle's delivery and passing. This past year has been so challenging on so many different levels. I have written little on this year and will post what I did write in my next post. I have new found respect for grieving; its complexity, depth, persistence and power and want to write about that. I am on a new path in my life for which I am grateful, but grief lingers on and it will for years to come.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Daily update: Period came. No pregnancy. I go on. Yesterday a local puppet theater came to our neighborhood as part of their "driveway tour." Lots of families and kids and great fun. If Iris ends up being our only child I am consoled partly with the fact that she definitely not deprived of a healthy social life.

OK. Dave and Jenny's wedding. As I said, we dressed up and attended and had a great time, although I was starting to get a sore throat.

The wedding was beautiful and reminded me very much of my own. Many enthusiastic friends and family donning exquisitely eccentric clothing under a beautiful blue sky. A good time was had by all. The next morning the cold I had been putting off made a stronger mark and lapsed me into exhaustion and irritability. Getting dressed for the day-after wedding party produced a laughable “good enough” costume of a comfortable yet slightly flamenco black skirt I got at a Mexican market and a purple halter top I have had for years and years and wear when I want to be comfortable yet a bit sexy. My throat was sore. We were heading out to the party early so as to be able to exit early and get home to rest, feel sick and sleep. We got all of us into the car after I grabbed a bottle of wine from our kitchen counter for a contribution to the festivities.

We pulled up in front of my friends’ house who live two doors down from the newlyweds and got out of the car. It was getting dark already at 8:00pm, it being early October in Minneapolis. I wanted to show Robert and Iris the work Phillip had done on his house in the back. He had just finished putting in a solarium he had bought for a song from an old now razed university building on the back of their Victorian house. I walk through the front gate and to the left side of their house to follow the cement path that will take me to the rear of the house. Robert and Iris are behind me a ways as I am rushing so as to move all the events of the evening on and get me back home and in bed. I am just making the turn to the side of the house when I trip over a little plastic mesh garden fence my friends had strung over the path to keep their new puppy in the yard. “Damn, the garden fence!” I think while I am in the air. I hear the bottle of wine break. It sounds behind me somehow. “Damn, the bottle broke!” I think, still in mid air. Then I am on all fours on the cement path thinking, “Well, that wasn’t so bad.” I look at my right hand and see that it is lying in a pile of shattered bottle glass. I say to myself, “Oh, I might be hurt.” I pick my hand up and see that it is covered with a dark liquid and I, “Either that’s wine, or it’s blood.” I get to my feet and walk to the friend’s side porch which has a light and I get very scared. Blood is pouring out of a long wound in the palm of my hand like a faucet.

I try to catch the blood with my left hand by holding it under my right. I yell to Robert who is still somewhere behind me with my daughter, “Robert, I think I hurt my hand really badly.” My pinkie finger is sliced at the base so that I can see a long gash exposing yellow body fat. I can’t move it. I lurch back and forth not knowing what to do or where to go. My friends are not at home, but my friend’s brother is staying with them. He’s from Holland and does not speak English very well. Robert knocks frantically on the side door and the brother comes. I don’t want to go in the house. All I can think is I can’t get blood all over their house. Robert and the brother convince me to run for the bathroom just across the room. Robert is with me. My hand is over the sink. It has several bleeding gashes. Robert is holding the long gushing gash in my palm with his thumb yelling at the brother to call 911. I look at my hand. My pinkie lies dormant with the body fat winking at me. Blood spews from underneath Robert’s thumb as he tries to compress the cut artery. The brother runs to the party for help while Robert is on the phone with 911. I hear him order an ambulance then answer a series of questions “Yes, she is conscious,” “Yes, she is standing,” etc. I am yelling at each reply, “Yes I AM CONSCIOUS! SEND A GODDAMN AMBULANCE!!” not realizing that one has already been dispatched. I hear “Mommy??!!” to my right. I look and see my 4 ½ year old daughter standing on a kitchen chair. Blood is spattered wildly all over the floor around her. She is pale, shaky and scared. I say in the calmest voice I can muster, “Oh honey, I’m okay. It’s going to be alright.” A friend of mine, the newlywed, comes on the scene with his best man, who happens to be a volunteer fireman and is wearing his fireman t-shirt. Robert and I initially mistake him for the real EMTs coming in the ambulance. My friend thoughtfully grabs Iris and whisks her away taking her outside and away from the bloody frenetic horror show.

Minutes which seem like hours go by as Robert is doing his best to staunch the flow of blood from the many gashes in my hand. Debates are going on about whether they should tourniquet my upper arm. I stare at my gaping ugly wounds and the blood chanting, “Oh, my god, oh my god,” over and over.

The real EMTs arrive at the scene. I see them. They are next to me in that small bathroom. This is real. I start to collapse. My knees just won’t hold me any longer. I sink to the floor and my vision starts to get cloudy. “Stay with me,” orders the handsome muscular black EMT. “I can’t,” I say, “I just need to sit down.” Robert still grasps my hand (or is the EMT now?) I am on the floor in front of the toilet and suddenly I am vomiting. My hand is raised as the EMTs wrap it and I vomit more. They wrap and wrap and my hand feels tight. This is reassuring. Finally they ask if I can walk to the ambulance or do they need to bring in a stretcher. Yes, I can walk.

I am shaky. I walk through the kitchen that is spattered heavily with my blood as the EMT keeps his iron grip on my hand. I walk around the house, following the trail of blood to the garden fence. I see the broken glass. I am in front of the house and look up and see several people from the party two doors down in the driveway to see me off. My friend is holding Iris. I give her the best smile I can muster and say, “I’m alright sweetie,” and step into the ambulance. They give me a saline IV. I throw up again. They do some more wrapping on my hand. Robert will meet me at the hospital. Once they define me as stable, we start. No lights, no siren, no fanfare. “You’re not dyin’!” the EMTs laugh. We chat on the way. “It’s starting to hurt.” “Oh, it’ll hurt.” “Will I lose my finger?” “I don’t think so.” “Do you know someone named Matt Spector? He’s training to be an EMT.” “No, don’t know him.” I vomit. They give me oxygen. They ask me if I had been drinking or doing drugs. “I had a glass of wine with dinner. I am not drunk.” “So you weren’t able to drink the wine before the bottle broke?” “No, it was a gift.” “Too bad!” Ha ha.

We get to the emergency room at Hennepin County Medical Center. I am wheeled through the double doors on a gurney. Doctors come out to look while I am still in the hallway. One wants to take off the bandages and see for himself the damage to my hand. The EMT says, “No, you don’t want to do that, it’s a gusher.” That doctor also asks me if I have been drinking. I am wheeled to a room. I am still vomiting. I have blood coagulating in streams down my legs. I am exhausted and scared I am losing my hand. Once the EMTs had given the duty of putting gross pressure on my hand to the ER nurses, they exit and I never see them again. “Thank you” I call back at them. They barely respond. All in a day’s work.

The ER staff are young and unsmiling. I am given morphine which immediately makes me vomit some more. We wait and wait for hours it seems for an orthopedic specialist to come in who will inspect my hand and advise the next move. No stitches are even put in yet. The morphine makes me quiet and I want to close my eyes. I still feel the painful twitches in my hand and the pressure from the grip of the ER nurse, but I can rest a little. Robert arrives (before the morphine?). He has Iris with him. He brings her in to see that I am alright then realizes that this is no place for a small child. My friends whose house this happened at call and Robert asks them to come pick up Iris. So he waits with her in the family room. Once she is gone he comes to be with me and begins to clean the dried blood off my legs and feet with a damp towel. Finally the specialist arrives. “Can you feel this?” “How about this?” “Can you bend this finger?” “Can you straighten it?” To my amazement I can bend all my fingers, but can’t straighten my pinkie or ring finger. I can’t feel my pinkie or the inside of my index finger and middle finger. I have cut tendons and nerves the specialist tells me. And because of the particular tendons I have cut and their location on the inside of my hand, he is not able to repair them in the ER, and I will have to come back for surgery.

Once he leaves, the ER staff begins to try to find the sliced artery to repair it. They tourniquet my arm between my elbow and my shoulder to cease the blood flow to my hand. Once the blood flow is staunched, they unwrap the hand from its many layers of gauze, and attempt to investigate the long gaping wound in my palm to look for the cut artery. The pressure in my hand and arm becomes unbearable. I start yelling at them to take off the tourniquet. Screaming. They seem annoyed at my outburst. “How much morphine did you give her?” says the head nurse to another nurse. “One something,” says the other. “Give her another one!” she barks. They take of the tourniquet until the morphine is given and I calm down. I vomit again. They put the tourniquet back on and dig some more in my hand. Sometime I watch other times I keep my eyes closed and try to meditate. The pressure is still unbearable, but somehow I am able put it aside. After several minutes, they cannot find the damaged artery so proceed to stitch the wound to create, as they explain, a hematoma under the skin that will stop the bleeding with vast amounts of pressure.

They re-tourniquet my arm and shoot my hand full of Novocain. I try to remain outside of myself. Deep breaths. They put about 50 stitches (it seems) in the inch long gash in my palm. They take off the tourniquet. Blood seeps through the stitches. “Not yet,” they say and put back on the tourniquet. This happens a couple of more times. Finally no blood seeps out. Once that wound is contained, they go to work stitching up the other six wounds in my hand: the one at the base of my pinkie, one at the base of my ring finger, one small one at the base of my middle finger, one on my thumb, one on the left side of my palm, and one at the base of my palm. By the time we are told we can leave leave, it is 1:00am.

Suddenly Robert and I are the only ones in the room where I have been for the last 4 1/2 hours. “Are you sure we can just go?” No one offers me a gurney to the car, or a wheelchair. I am weak and in a morphine haze. We walk out in the street. I am clutching Robert’s arm feeling as though I will collapse any moment. My vision starts going black. I am afraid I am going to pass out on the sidewalk. If the car hadn’t been where it was I would have done so. I sink into the passenger seat. We arrive home and I fall into the living room couch not having the energy to walk up the stairs to my bedroom. I fall into a morphine dreamless stupor until morning.

I am on Vicodin. On Sunday I call my family, my work, some friends to tell them about my hand. My parents say they will come to Minneapolis to help out. Bless them. My friends whose house I bled all over come to visit. They can barely look me in the eye. I feel for them. My hand is bandaged into a white mitt and I have to keep it elevated. I barely move from the living room couch all day. One time I go to the bathroom and while sitting on the toilet I let my hand drop for a moment and I felt this painful surging burping pulse from my hand that nearly makes me pass out it hurts so badly. I stumble back to the couch hoping I won’t vomit on the way and slink back in, elevate my hand and pass out.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

I am still not pregnant. This was the last unofficial month we were going to try to get pregnant, "the old-fashioned way." My period is late, so maybe I was a but hopeful for a few hours, but the pregnancy test dashed those hopes. I will try another test tomorrow if the period still doesn't come. I wrote last time about a sense of relief which I am feeling somewhat again now. I am planning my next trimester's classes and looking forward to a full schedule that is now allowed since I have quit my job; wanting to utterly immerse myself in that world of healing and the body.

I am getting more used to the concept that Iris will be my only biological child, although there are other things that I have to write about to make my current reality become more clear. So here it goes:

I am now going to take you back in time to just over two years ago. It was at this time that my husband and I first admitted defeat and went to see a fertility specialist. He was a kindly old gentleman who had dedicated himself and his science to helping women conceive and deliver. An award winning miracle worker. After the consultation and examination, involving an intrauterine ultrasound, his recommendation was to try Clomid first which is an oral medication used to induce regular ovulation. The words I remember most coming out of the sage's mouth was, "Time is not on our side."

It was hell. Emotions hitting the wall and mood swings to left field. I stumble back into the office not pregnant where they discover lo and behold two enormous ovarian cysts that induced the radiologist to utter an audible, "Whoa!" Cysts?? She asked me if I felt any pain. Nope, no pain. Spotting? Nope, not that either. After she and I get over the shock of giant cysts on my ovaries, and she assures me that they were not life threatening (for to me cysts=cancer) she went for further advise while I sit contemplating the growths in my lower half. She returns to tell me that they cannot do an insemination (the next step) this month because of the cysts, and that instead I should go on birth control pills for a month to try to shrink the cysts. Birth Control Pills. That was a stunner. My aim is to get pregnant, don't you see? I ask if women usually get cysts from Clomid. "Sometimes," she says. Not a woman of many words, this one. I begin to get angry, "Why is it prescribed then?" I get nowhere on that argument. I slump into resignation, shocked and appalled at my current situation. This isn't what I bargained for and everyone just goes about their business. THis angers me irrationally yet intensly.

So I went on a birth control pill, angry the whole time. Another precious month flies away. I go back in and the cysts are still there and now they are recommending a procedure called aspiration whereby they put me under and insert a tool with a pin attached into my uterus and up my fallopian tubes to prick the damn cysts to release the liquid held therein. They assure me that once the procedure is done, I will be free and clear to begin the process for insemination ASAP. OK, fine. Let's get it over with. I do the aspiration. I remember that the anesthesiologist was very kind. Overall, the procedure was fine. No lasting discomfort and then I was ready for injectibles and insemination. This could be it!

I prepared. It took me 20 minutes to get that first short needle into my stomach that injected a medication into me to stimulate follicle growth. My husband and I watched the needling videos on our computer over and over before he was ready to jab that longer thicker needle into my ass for ovulation. We went in at our designated times on the day of the insemination, and then waited. No pregnancy.

I went in for another examination. More cysts. Must wait another month before insemination can happen again, or another aspiration, or we give up. They told me I must produce these cysts regularly. Could this by why do don't get pregnant? They can't answer that. It's amazing to me how often I am reminded of little we truly know about our bodies. It makes sense to me that cysts could prevent the body from doing it's god-given function and allowing me to conceive. The cysts could even mean that I am not ovulating at all. But, of course, no one could tell me for sure.

I was angry and frustrated. My general mood was dour. The summer had been wasted with Clomid haze, knowledge and worry of cysts, impatience, disappointment, frustration, and lack of control over my body and function. It was now fall and I had to keep waiting or make the decision to stop with the procedures, the poking and prodding, and the needles. But I am 39 and we tried our way for years with no baby. Back and forth. Back and forth. I am spent, tired, angry and I still have to go to work, face my clients and colleagues, cook dinner for and be a supportive member of my family. I go on.

The next step is Jenny and Dave's wedding. A great event in and of itself. We dress up and have a great time. But this event will always remain as a milestone in my life's events for reasons that I will relay in my next entry. Stay tuned, I'll be back.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

This morning I was at a volunteer appreciation breakfast at my daughter's school where I have been volunteering in her kindergarten classroom each Friday for the last eight months. Another mother/volunteer asked me if Iris was my only daughter, and I said yes. No disclaimers of still trying, or we're hoping for another one. Just Yes, she's my only one. I nearly cried. How strange. This other mother looked at me intentionally as if I was giving off the vibe that I wanted to say more. But I refused. Yes. This is the first time in four years I was able to answer like that to that particular question, which unfairly is asked all the bloody time. The rest of the day I was off.

During class tonight, I answered a question on a quiz with three of the three muscles that insert in the bicipital groove, when I was only asked to name two, and I got it completely wrong. I advocated for at least half credit for having the correct answer even though I had not followed the directions correctly. But she asked me, "If a child did something wrong even though she knew what the rules were, how would you react." I said, "I think that is an unfair analogy." I was livid. I couldn't look at the teacher for the next fifteen minutes of class.

I worry about my anger sometimes. How easy it is for me to go from zero to a thousand in a matter of seconds. Then I rage for long spells and afterwards I am exhausted. Headachy and shaky as if I had had a seizure. I rage at in justice. Injustice aimed at me and others. I fight other people's battles although I am learning not to for it only gets me trouble. I rage at my husband's unfinished projects or broken promises to clean up his piles of crap (believe me, I am keeping a trash house a bay, more on that later). I rage when people are nasty to others or to me when it is undeserved, then worry that I do the same in my own rageful moments. What we most dislike in others is what we dislike in ourselves, so they say. Was that too cliche? I take baths to calm down. The scalding water overpowering the heat of the anger in every limb. Breath in the steam. Deep breaths. Tai Qi helps. Qi Gong.

I started Tai Qi last October on the recommendation from my acupuncturist. I had taken Tai Qi in Poland back in 1997-98. I loved it then and I love it now. Remember to breathe. Pay attention to the Qi. I don't practice at home as I should because we really don't have the room. My husband is taking the Tai Qi class with me. He is usually the only man and we are the youngest of the students. We are learning the New China form. He needs to work on the waist turns and keeping it slow and deliberate. I need to work on not getting stuck in incorrect routines. Breathe. Must breathe. If I am having a bad day, when I get to Tai Qi and start moving and breathing, I feel the tension, anger or stress falling away. I get lost in the movements that have now become my own. I listen to my breath, feel the warmth build up in my hands. It makes me feel like I am part of something, part of history, perhaps a level of meaning that people have been exploring and embodying for thousands of years. Have I mentioned that I am idealistic? More on that later. I will keep you posted.

Monday, June 1, 2009


I am 41 years old and I am not pregnant. My husband thinks we should try again, "unofficially," or some would say, "the old fashioned way." I am game but hardly hopeful. I first stepped foot into a fertility clinic two years and some months ago after trying for a second child for two years. The journey since that initial visit to the venerated miracle worker of reproductive medicine has led me to hell and back and I want to share my story. Ironically, I feel I am in a better place emotionally and mentally right now, after this last attempt at insemination failed than I have been in the last two. There is a certain amount of relief I feel with the decision to stop trying. As I said I am 41, much older than I ever would have thought I would ever carry a child. But I was open to it, believe me, and we tried. This story contains other elements than my quest for a second child as nothing occurs in a vacuum. One's life continues and things come up to distract and alter course. This story is how all these experiences changed my priorities and my goals; my knowledge of inner strength and healing; my faith in friends, family and the body and mind's ultimate ability to fight and emerge with the iota of sanity you never thought you would regain. I will try not to be cliche with the "life goes on" nonsense. I just want to write about my experiences and maybe people will be interested in them. More later. I'll keep you posted.